John Smedly of Sony Online Entertainment, makers of the Everquest series and Star Wars Galaxies, outlines how the gold farming “business” is not only hurting players, but the game companies as well:
I think the issue of farming is higher on the radar now than it ever has been. The behinds the scenes things are really frustration. A lot of these farmers are essentially stealing from us. What they do is they charge us back all the time. They use a credit card sometimes stolen, sometimes not to buy an account key. They use the account for a month, and then they call the credit card company and charge it back. We have suffered nearly a million dollars just in fines over the past six months; it’s getting extremely expensive for us. What’s happening is that when they do this all the time, the credit card companies come back to us and say “You have a higher than normal chargeback rate, therefore we’ll charge you fines on top of that.” We’re really trying to get on top of that. We’re taking our current efforts up about five notches to Defcon 1 on this issue. They bug us even more than they bug our customers, and we’re definitely taking steps to implement rigorous anti-farming efforts.
I’ve always reported bots, gold farmers, and spammers whenever I see them in World of Warcraft. I considered it a courtesy for the players and for the integrity of the game. I’ve always thought that gold farming companies weren’t doing anything against real-world laws, but they were violating the Terms of Service of the game. Now, it appears they are using the rules of the credit card companies to essentially commit fraud while they continue hurting the game.
However the true blame lies with the players who actually buy the gold these companies sell. I would have no problem with Blizzard or any other MMO company banning not only the farmer accounts, but those who have received gold from them as well.